What is a translation consultant?

By January 17, 2019
democratic republic of the congo, DRC

International (MNN) – Translation work, at a glance, might seem like a pretty simple job. Don’t you just translate, word for word, from one language to another? But in reality, it’s not that easy. Throw in words that have no equal in another language, cultural connotations, and different grammatical structure, and things get complicated pretty quickly.

This is why the workers at Wycliffe Bible Translators are so diverse in their skillsets. And one job you may have never thought of within this body of work is translation consulting.

(Photo courtesy of Wycliffe Bible Translators USA)

Rick Floyd is a translation consultant with Wycliffe USA. He also is a professor and instructor teaching linguistics at Biola University. Part of his job includes coordinating translation projects for Spanish-speaking South America. He also consults with a language group he previously worked with in Peru.

So, just what is his job?

He says, “In my view, a translation consultant serves as an extra pair of eyes to maybe spot things that the translation team hasn’t thought of, they’ve overlooked. Suggestions on how something might be rendered that’s a little awkward. To help them think through exegetical issues. So it’s a multiplicity of roles and potential functions.”

He clarifies that it’s not his job to decide whether or not something is a good translation. Rather, his main goal is to help the translation team think through things from different perspectives. He does his best to help them avoid common pitfalls in translation work.

What makes this job such an important part of Bible translation at Wycliffe USA?

“Because one person doesn’t know everything. One group of people doesn’t know everything. So, in a sense the more eyes you have looking at something—within reason—and variety of experience, you can catch things that may be blind spots to one person and might not be to another person. Consideration of cultural issues, for example.”

Floyd explains that translation work is not a linear process. You don’t just start in Genesis and end in Revelation, going word by word, until it’s finished. Rather, he explains that it’s more cyclical as they comb the work done again, and again. Consulting is just part of the process—another net to try and keep errors from slipping by.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t mistakes.

“I’ve heard it said the seeds of revision are sown in the translation itself. So, all you have to do is start translating something and there’s going to be problems with something that you do. So, again, we’re very, very imperfect. We do our best… and commit the results to God.”

Now that you’ve learned a little bit more about the complicated work that goes into Bible translation, will you pray?

Floyd asks, “Pray that the Lord of the harvest sends workers to the field, to be able to begin work in the languages that remain. The Scriptures say that at the end, people from every tribe and tongue and nation will be around the throne, and we’re working to make that vision a reality.”

To learn more about how you can partner with Wycliffe USA, click here.



Praise God that the Tembo people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo now have the New Testament in their own language! PRAY for transformed lives. (Header photo, caption courtesy of Wycliffe USA)

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